Category Archives: Learning

The iPad’s Magical Energy

When Apple, Inc.’s CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad tablet as “a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price” he was certainly talking about the iPad’s ease of use. Like any great statement, however, many translations exist. I prefer to see Steve talking about the iPad as the amazing translation of Apple’s perseverance in developing the optimal computing device for every global citizen.

While perseverance is the key word here, the translation of that word is also very important. Had Apple merely stuck with the tried and true desktop PC model and come out with an evolutionary product, that would certainly have been both an understandable result of vision and perhaps have augmented the global supply of desktop computers.  But here the translation was to a device which did not need a keyboard, a floppy drive, or even a power cord, and yet provides nearly all the computing power a person needs. Note that previous attempts at a tablet computer by other companies did not take the world by storm, so this unique recipe of perseverance was indeed magical.

In the I Ching (Yijing), the Book of Changes, the meaning of perseverance can go many ways, but the general idea is that perseverance, or continual hard work, generally brings good fortune. This good fortune can appear to others to be what I’ll call “magical energy”, or simply “magic”, but in the end it is always the result of somebody’s hard work.

The I Ching’s hexagram 30, Li — The Clinging, Fire, yields several different translations. The judgements vary thusly:

“Let (its subject) also nourish (a docility like that of) the cow, and there will be good fortune.”
– trans by James Legge, 1882, (c) University Books, Inc., 1964, 1986

“The clinging. Perseverance furthers.
It brings success.
Care of the cow brings good fortune.”
– trans by Wilhelm/Baynes, (c) 1950, 1971

“Compliance with the shifts of fortune assures survival. Symbol of docility, a cow was also an important capital reserve for farmers.”
– trans by Kerson and Rosemary Huang, (c) 1985, 1987

The Wilhelm/Baynes “Perseverance furthers” is the most widely quoted phrase from the various interpretations of this trigram, meaning that hard work over a long time generally yields good results. Just as the ideas, technology, and implementation of Steve Jobs and company yielded a “magical and revolutionary device”, anyone seeking a goal must turn away from distractions and work hard toward the attainment of that goal. I. A. Smalis puts it best in his book “Money: Only a By-Product”: “Turn off that blasted television and concentrate on your goals!”



Yin and Yang Changes Everything

“Okay, yeah, I’ve heard of this yin and yang thing…it’s that strange black and white swirly symbol, right?”

“Ying and Yang, you mean?”

“Uh, no, never heard of them…”

Whether you have heard of Yin and Yang or not is not important, but that they exist in every facet of your life is important, and more to the point, you have a large amount of control over how they impact you. These two concepts that we borrow from the Chinese philosophy known as Taoism (pron “Dow-ism”) go hand-in-hand to describe a great number of systems with which we humans interact.

Yin and Yang represent two opposite ideas such as cold and hot, wet and dry, black and white, less and more, light and heavy, etc. I propose to you that the versions of Yin and Yang that may describe our individual lives are generally controllable, and beneficial if we can control them appropriately.  The ways that we feel, eat, act, and live we generally have control over.  Excesses and deficiencies in these areas are what drive us to feel good or bad, behave appropriately or not, and perform well or not well.

Food and drink are a prime example.  While periodic over- or under-eating is not going to greatly affect us, consistently eating too much of some foods and not enough of others may, if our body is unable to withstand that activity over a long period, adversely affect us. We have learned that drinking too much alcoholic beverage over many years can lead to weight gain, systemic diseases, or even death.  We are now learning how eating too much meat, sweets or grains over time can lead to health complications.  And while coffee and tea have driven civilization forward over the past several hundred years, increased caffeine intake over many years can exacerbate various health conditions.

In studying Tai Chi, we learn that a constant interplay of changing balance from one side to the other, from Yin to Yang, helps us move forward on generally an even keel. Your life can similarly have an even keel, moving forward without running into major problems, if you learn how to maintain an adequate level of exercise, learn to hydrate your body consistently with the correct liquids, and seek to maintain a more calm or less caustic personality such that our interpersonal relations do not stress us out.

Can you now see this interplay of Yin and Yang in your life? What in your life could you do more of, or less of, to seek to regain your balance going forward?


Creative Destruction and Learning

It struck me, in reading the I Ching yesterday, that #48, Ching / The Well, is followed intentionally by #49, Ko / Revolution, signifying the need for both strong fundamental structures and periodic tearing down of those structures. Schumpeter’s creative destruction of capitalism is the modern embodiment.

When you are learning an art as complex as Tai Chi / Taiji, the structure of the series of exercises must be broken down into elemental portions, just as to learn to apply the quadratic equation, you must start with addition and subtraction.  Once you get to the level of putting the elemental parts together, you have to destroy your concept of what the Tai Chi movements mean.  Instead of being a series of distinct exercises, the Tai Chi forms or patterns are now a vehicle for several higher functions: meditation via breathing, self-defense via applications, and a basis for weapon and two-person activities.

Where does the added function of Qi come into play?  Is it in the exercises, in the self-defense applications, in the meditation, or in the weapons/two-person forms?  The answer is all, and none of the above. The Qi must be “found” by the Tai Chi player as he/she learns to weave everything together.  The player builds the foundation, the superstructure of the forms/patterns, and as fluidity improves, knowledge of how the body moves coupled with how the body interacts with other bodies allows the player to begin to see what expression of Qi actually means.

Once you get to a very high level, it is very instructive to step back and see how to teach all this to a total beginner.  Only if the player is successful in that translation exercise will he/she be able to destroy the foundation previously built so that the true value of Tai Chi can be found. Hint: the true value is different for every single player, which as it turns out is true for most of life’s endeavors.